more research on women in the economics and sociology professions

Justin Wolfers reports on new research investigating the role of gender in academic careers, especially economics. The background is that economics is a discipline with a rather low percentage of women. This is surprising as other fields in the social sciences have seen long term increases.

A new dissertation by Heather Sarsons suggests that in economics one issue is credit for co-authored work:

While women in the field publish as much as men, they are twice as likely to perish [F: not get tenure]. And this higher rate for women being denied tenure persists even after accounting for differences in tenure rates across universities, the different subfields of economics that women work in, the quality of their publications and other influences that may have changed over time.

But Ms. Sarsons discovered one group of female economists who enjoyed the same career success as men: those who work alone. Specifically, she says that “women who solo author everything have roughly the same chance of receiving tenure as a man.” So any gender differences must be because of the differential treatment of men and women who work collaboratively.


When an economist writes a paper on her own, there is no question about who deserves the credit. Each additional solo research paper raises the probability of getting tenure by about 8 or 9 percent, she calculated. The career benefit from publishing a solo paper is about the same for women as it is for men. But unlike women, men also get just as much credit for collaborative research, and there is no statistical difference in the career prospects of authors of individually written papers and those of papers written as part of a research team.

Unfortunately for women, research done with a co-author counts far less. When women write with co-authors, the benefit to their career prospects is much less than half that accorded to men. This really matters, because most economic research is done with co-authors.

In an interesting comparison, Sarsons compiled similar data for sociology, another journal focused field with lots of team work. She finds that women and men get similar credit for co-authored work. Wolfers notes that it might be due to citation practices – in soc, order indicates credit in most cases. Econ is alphabetical author order.

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Written by fabiorojas

January 11, 2016 at 5:22 am

Posted in uncategorized

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